If you’re in hospitality, you already know how much of a compounding problem food waste can be. Across the board, spoiled, spilled or expired food items eat into your revenue and profit margins and increase losses. Not exactly the kinds of things you want to be chewing on as a growth-hungry establishment.
And what about the food thrown out or left behind by customers?
As much as you and your team try to minimise food wastage in your kitchen through in-depth stock management and better ordering processes, your customers also create daily food waste that can impact sustainability.
Food wastage is one of the major contributors to climate change. According to WRAP, 81% of UK citizens are concerned about climate change (great news) but only 32% see a link between food waste and climate change (not so great news).
But, never fear. A little education and awareness, topped with a dash of creativity, can go a long way in encouraging your customers to proactively reduce their food waste.
In this guide we’ll walk you through five ideas that you could implement to help reduce customer-led food waste.
1. Talk about food waste
The first step for reducing food waste? Talk about it! Making your customers aware of the efforts and active steps you’re taking to minimise food waste can encourage them to be more proactive in reducing the waste they produce.
Share your waste reduction goals, stats and strategies with customers as part of your larger marketing efforts. Let customers know how you’re working to reduce food waste, whether that’s through more strategic food sourcing, recipe creation, menu design or inventory control. Make it an ongoing discussion within your restaurant and (gently) encourage customers to join in and be part of the change.
Communication is key to customer participation. If you’re not sure of the best way to talk about food waste with customers, these “Don’t feed the food monster” resources from the World Wildlife Fund offer great ideas for how to get the conversation going.
2. Encourage customers to take leftovers home
Another very simple, yet effective, way of reducing food waste is to encourage your customers to take leftover food home with them. It makes sense, after all. Leftovers could make up another meal entirely, and the customer is paying for it.
If customers have leftover food on their plates, train staff to automatically offer to bring a takeaway box or “doggy bag” before clearing their plates, reminding them that leftovers can be a convenient meal for later. Sometimes a little reminder is all they need to see the value still sitting untouched on their plates! And food taken home is always better than food ending up in the bin.
3. Offer smaller portions or a smaller appetite package
Offering large portions for every meal might inadvertently be contributing to front of house waste. Some customers will naturally have a smaller appetite or simply be “peckish” on certain days compared to others. You can cater for differing customer appetites by offering half portions, as well as “starter portions” for certain meals.
Offering half portions and/or starter portions may mean less revenue, but you can use it as an opportunity to upsell other items. For example, instead of only offering a full portion of soup, you could offer a special consisting of a half portion and a side order of dipping bread. This will help fill in the revenue gap while also moving more inventory or helping you to use up other items that may otherwise have been wasted.
4. Create a more sustainable menu
Sustainability in the UK hospitality sector has become an increasingly important point of discussion among legislators and consumers. The UK government has recently set a target of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 within hospitality, and restaurants, bars and cafés are being encouraged to join the movement sooner rather than later.
Luckily, reducing food waste is a key strategy for improving sustainability as a hospitality business! Designing a more sustainable menu based on seasonal ingredients sourced locally can reduce delivery costs, carbon emissions and packaging waste.
Initially, your customers may be surprised and even disappointed to see fewer menu options available. However, studies have shown that UK consumers are increasingly favouring “greener” brands that actively demonstrate sustainable, environmentally-conscious practices. If you make it clear that sustainability efforts are behind it, they’ll likely embrace it and your brand appeal will automatically increase.
5. Design a customer rewards/loyalty programme around waste reduction
We all know gamification can work wonders for participation and enthusiasm, so why not implement it as part of your waste reduction efforts with customers? Introducing a rewards or loyalty programme centred around waste reduction can act as a great incentive to encourage your customers to get involved (not to mention increase their brand loyalty in the process).
For instance, you could create a points system that allows customers to collect points every time they choose a menu item marked as “sustainable”. After they’ve collected a certain number of points, they could earn a free coffee, smoothie or salad.
You could also consider partnering with neighbouring businesses that are also working to reduce consumer waste to offer partner-based specials or discounts (i.e a customer ordering a meal from your restaurant will give them a 5% discount on a product from a nearby lifestyle business whose goals align with yours or vice versa).
Don’t let food waste eat into your hard-earned revenue
By reducing and minimising food waste as much as possible, you can improve the overall sustainability of your business.
While reducing customer-related food waste is vital to minimising losses, you also need to run a sturdy waste reduction programme in your back of house operations. Watertight inventory management is crucial to cutting down on overall food waste.
At growyze, it’s our mission to help you master this. Our inventory management system gives you complete visibility and control over your current inventory levels, recipe ingredients and wastage.
Book a demo with growyze to discover how to begin reducing wastage today.